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Wednesday, July 28, 1999

Arms talks participants slam Tokyo Forum report

Staff writer

KYOTO -- Delegates to the Fourth United Nations Conference on Disarmament Issues in Kyoto leveled heavy criticism Wednesday on an unofficial report on regional disarmament issues issued by a Tokyo-based panel of experts. But a government spokesman said Japan supported the report and will ask the U.N. General Assembly to distribute it as an official document.

During the second day of the four-day conference, delegates discussed a report issued Sunday by the Tokyo Forum. The forum consists of 21 nuclear disarmament experts and is co-chaired by former U.N. Undersecretary General Yasushi Akashi.

Delegates found controversy with a number of suggestions. In particular, the report's recommendation that India and Pakistan accede to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as nonnuclear weapon states, despite having carried out nuclear tests in May 1998, was dismissed by several as unrealistic.

Akashi said he acknowledges the criticism but said the purpose of that particular recommendation is to allow both India and Pakistan to take intermediate steps so that, in the long run, this would be possible.

"Overall, I believe our report was realistic and pragmatic in recommending steps to get to zero warheads, our ultimate goal," Akashi said.

Although Akashi suggested more experts study the report and make recommendations, Toshio Sano, director of the Foreign Ministry's arms control and disarmament division, said the Japanese government supports the report in principle and would recommend it to the United Nations at an unspecified future date.

"The Japanese government will ask the U.N. General Assembly to distribute the report as an official document," Sano said.

Earlier Wednesday, delegates opened plenary sessions with security concerns in Northeast Asia, in particular North Korea and worsening U.S.-China relations.

"The Korean Peninsula remains the last glacier of the Cold War. While South Korea has adopted a policy of engagement toward North Korea has seen this policy as a threat to its existence," said Lee Seo-Hang, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official who specializes in national security.

Foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea and the U.S., who met this week in Singapore, have warned that a launch of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which could reach as far as Hawaii and Alaska, would seriously undermine peace in the region.

Kyoto conference participants kept the warning in mind as they discussed ways to get North Korea -- which has shunned invitations to disarmament talks and is absent from the Kyoto conference -- to the bargaining table.

Lee advocated a go-slow approach and improvement of economic relations, and said that proposals such as the Theater Missile Defense system, known as the Ballistic Missile Defense system in Japan, have been greeted cautiously by South Korea.

But some voiced concern that this approach is growing less politically popular elsewhere. "Can the democracies of the U.S. and South Korea wait for North Korea to change?" asked Robert Scalapino, an East Asian Studies professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who said he personally supports Lee's proposals. "The U.S. Congress is losing patience, and opposition to the sunshine policy is increasing."

North Korea consumed much debate at the conference. But Zhang Yun Fang, a Chinese official, also spoke on political economic issues often involved in disarmament negotiations, including technology transfers, environmental protection and ensuring energy resources.

Zhang also warned of the dangers of unfettered global capitalism and spoke specifically of the problems of hedge funds.

On U.S.-China relations, Zhang noted that the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade and the war in Kosovo remained negative elements.

He said relations could improve through increased mutual understanding and said security in the region was not possible without friendly U.S.-China ties.

The Kyoto conference is unofficial in nature, with 60 participants from 24 countries having been invited in a personal, not official, capacity. The conference concludes Friday.

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The Japan Times

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